Good for what ails body and mind
Well, I’m back from my trip to the Alpena, Michigan area, where I spent five very relaxing and peaceful days and nights that were exactly what I needed. Yes, there were some disappointments, I didn’t photograph a single new species of bird, and there were some equipment related frustrations along with the bugs and two chilly nights to deal with. But when I think back on this last week, those things won’t be what I remember, my memories will be of being able to hike all the way to South Point in Negwegon State Park and enjoy the view while breathing in the fresh clean air coming off from Lake Huron, lightly scented with pine and cedar…
…and the glorious sunsets in the evenings.
And while I didn’t make any new bird friends during the week, there were plenty of old friends to photograph better than I have in the past.
And, I may not have gotten any new species of birds, I did photograph this little cutie for the first time ever!
It’s hard to believe that a critter that cute and beautiful is ounce for ounce, one of the most ferocious predators there is. Don’t worry, there will be better photos of her in a later post.
This past week was exactly what I needed to get both my body and my mental health back in shape. After the health problems that I had with my legs and feet, the five miles to South Point and back weren’t a problem at all, although I would have crawled if I had to in order to see the sights and just enjoy everything about being out in nature in an area where people are few and far between. I may have had better weeks out in the woods before, but never one that meant as much to me as this one did. I find it hard to put into words how true that is, so I suppose that my photos will have to say it for me.
I left home well before sunrise on Monday morning under a cloudy sky that was dropping rain occasionally throughout the first half of the day. As I neared my destination, I stopped off at the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse to stretch my legs and take a break from driving. I’ve photographed the lighthouse before, so I didn’t this time, besides, there was some one else there using a drone to photograph the light, so I didn’t want to spoil his photo shoot. But, I did find this…
…and this to shoot.
I arrived at Ossineke State Forest Campground before noon, and in less than half an hour, I had my tent/cot set-up, and I was ready to go looking for birds. However, my first photo from there wasn’t of a bird, it was of sap dripping from a freshly fallen pine that had fallen over the trail, and been sawed to clear the trail again.
Reaching the shore of Lake Huron, I noticed these two mergansers near the shore.
I also noticed even more changes in the shoreline due to the rising water level of Lake Huron, the sand bars that used to hold the shorebirds that I would have liked to have photographed were now under water. So was most of the point of land jutting out into the lake where I had photographed the shorebirds in previous years. More bad news was on the way as well, I didn’t notice a single eagle anywhere in sight, and it looked like the nest to the south of the campground hadn’t been used. Speaking to one of the local dog walkers later that day, he said that the eagles never showed up last year either.
That didn’t mean that I didn’t see any eagles that week, one even flew through my campsite early on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee, but there was no longer a handy flock to shoot close to my campsite.
I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but I didn’t get the flocks of warblers through my campsite every morning as I had in the past either. That may have been a timing issue, since I was a week later this year, and we had a relatively mild winter, only time will tell. I did get a few warblers in camp, mostly yellow-romped and palm warblers, but those two species were everywhere!
There were also a few of these around, but I never got close to one.
Plenty of these…
…and these as well.
The photos of warblers from this week may not be the greatest, but I amazed myself by recalling what most of the species of warblers that I have seen in the past looked like and how they behaved, for instance, I knew right away that this was a pine warbler.
That’s even though I haven’t seen or heard one in a couple of years.
However, it turns out that I was wrong, I did get a new to me species to add to the My Photo Life list project, a Tennessee warbler.
I knew that I had seen this species before, I wasn’t mistaken on that, but it was one of the birds that Brian Johnson was banding at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I thought that it would be cheating to photograph it while he held it. Now I have photos of one in the wild!
Along with the warblers, there were plenty of crane flies, here’s a photo of one of the many palm warblers deciding which crane fly to eat for dessert.
And, here’s a better photo of a palm warbler.
As you may be able to tell, the weather had become quite changeable, it would sprinkle a few rain drops, then the sun would come out again until the next small rain cloud would pass overhead. It made it tricky to get good photos of anything, from these leaves beginning to open…
…to this tree branch which I mistook for an owl for a second.
I shot a few more birds there at the campground…
…I suppose you could call this a seascape, even though it’s a shot looking across Thunder Bay on Lake Huron towards the LaFarge cement plant near Alpena…
…I also found these flowers which I meant to look for later but forgot to…
…along with this chipmunk.
I did two passes through the campground, by then, it was the middle of the afternoon, and most of the birds were off taking their siestas for the day. I decided to drive into Alpena and stop at the tourist information location to pick up a brochure about the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail. That’s an idea put together by several of the county tourism groups in the area, they have played on how popular bird watching has become, and put up signs and created a brochure with maps to tell people how to get to many of the best bird watching spots there are along the northern coast of Lake Huron.
I had done a little bit of research before leaving home, and knew that one of the spots was Partridge Point, which was on my way to Alpena. So, I stopped there even though it was the wrong time of day, or so I thought, to scout it before returning one morning or evening. I heard rails, sora, and American bittern calling, but this was the surprising thing that I found.
Actually, acres of Indian paintbrush blooming was one of two surprising things that I found, for feeding on the nectar of the flowers was this guy!
There must not be much nectar in any one flower, because the hummer was moving very quickly from flower to flower, so those were the best photos that I could manage. When the little guy landed to rest, I shot a few more photos of him.
I wanted him to display his bright red throat for a photo, but he gave me the stink eye instead.
So did this grackle.
I found a great egret…
…but it didn’t stick around for very long.
We’ve had a lot of rain this year so far, so much of Partridge point was too wet to walk in just boots, and I also wanted to make it to the tourism information center before they closed for the day, so I left the birds to go pick up my brochure.
Since I was almost across the street from the Alpena Nature Sanctuary after picking up the brochures that interested me, so that was my next stop, where I found a couple of female red-winged blackbirds willing to pose for me.
One of the male red-winged blackbirds was too busy beating up a great blue heron to pose for me.
I missed the shot of the blackbird smacking the heron on the top of the heron’s head, as I wasn’t sure how well you’d be able to see the birds as far back in the reeds as they were.
Then, it was time to return to the campground for one more trip through it from end to end to see what I could find, but it seemed like something was always watching me.
I found a flock of these guys to shoot.
I don’t know why, but I never thought of a muskrat living in one of the Great Lakes before.
Off in the distance, there were three great egrets fishing, I managed two in the frame at one time.
A gust of wind ruined this shot, blowing a branch in front of the bird at the wrong time.
And finally, I though that the patterns in these cedar trees was kind of interesting.
So, that was the end of the first day. I didn’t stay up to watch the sunset that evening, I was too tired. Also, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky by that time, and it was getting chilly. The forecast was for frost overnight, so I wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag before it got too cold outside.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!